Let me tell you what happened this morning.
I went to have coffee, and a fine conversation about many things, with a buddy of mine. We stay a little longer than usual, neither of us having anything pressing immediately afterward. As I’m leaving, I’ve already started the van and put it in reverse, I see a boy, about age 13, with fear and panic in his eyes and voice calling to his Mom pointing to the ground in front of the van parked next to me. All I can see above the hood is the gray, balding top of a man’s head, and I get this knot in my stomach.
I jump out and run around the front to the gentleman. He’s lying on the sidewalk, cuts on his knees and elbows, a pretty bad abrasion to his cheekbone and a cut on his brow. He’s trying to get up and saying, “I… um, I… I don’t know what I tripped over.” In the background I hear a woman, “Oh God! Dad! Oh, Dad!” Then to no one in particular, “We just came from the hospital, we stopped here to get something to eat. Oh, Dad!”
I notice a few things about him. He’s about eighty. I notice the paper-thin skin with no elasticity. I can almost see through it. I can see the bruising under the bandage where the IV went in earlier. I can see other bruises, the kind that old folks seem to get so easily. He’s disoriented. But remarkably , other than the cuts, he seems alright. Hips, legs, elbows fine, no deep-bone kind of pain.
A nurse is here now assessing injuries and holding a towel on his cuts.
I notice the way panic affects his family. The teenage granddaughter standing kind of detached, and in that awkward, self-conscious manner that means, “I don’t quite know how to react”, but comes across as self-centered and a little uncaring. The grandson who saw it all happen is upset and trying, the best he knows how, to help. The daughter seems to be almost grieving in some sense. Simple questions seem to stump her for a few seconds as if the words aren’t quite registering. And her husband running back and forth trying to get ice, or a bandage, or call for help, something. They all seem to be as disoriented as he is.
They get him up and help him to their van, for the four block ride back to the hospital. I get in mine and drive away.
All I can think about is my Dad. He’ll be seventy-nine in a couple of days, paper thin skin that bruises easily. I’ve watched him become more and more feeble. tripping on things, needing help sometimes.
I understand the daughter’s sense of grief. Her Father is old and feeble, and death could be very close, certainly closer than she wants it to be. And she already feels the loss.
I know, I’m already grieving too.
The knot is still in my stomach. A mixture of hatred and fear.
I hate death.
I hate it with a passion I have for few other things in this, or any other world.
And I fear it.
Christians aren’t supposed to fear death, because death is a defeated foe. Merely a passage from this life into the next one, glorious, pain free, joyful and eternal. And why bother hating death? After all, to die is gain, right?
All theologically correct, as were Job’s friends. About as useful too.
“Where, O death, is your sting?” Right here in my gut, that’s where.
“Where, O death, is your victory?” In the grief, and loss, and regret it brings.
Death is still our enemy. Death should never have been. It’s WRONG. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. And we all know it.
So, where does that leave me?
With a knot in my stomach, and fear in the back of my mind. We don’t grieve like those with no hope, but we grieve.